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U.S., Under Fire on AIDS, Says It’s Leading Global Fight

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The United States insists it is leading the global fight against AIDS, despite stinging criticism of its drug and funding policies at a global conference.

The United States insists it is leading the global fight against AIDS, despite stinging criticism of its drug and funding policies at a global conference.Washington’s moral agenda, trade policies and funding guidelines have come under attack from activists and world leaders, including French President Jacques Chirac and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the administration took the crisis very seriously.”We do consider it the greatest threat of mass destruction on the face of the planet in the present age,” he told reporters in Washington.”And we are continuing our efforts to lead the efforts internationally with funding, with science, with diplomacy, and with the energy of the United States government behind it to try to address this crisis.”U.S. AIDS czar Randall Tobias will set out Washington’s commitment to fighting the pandemic, which has claimed 20 million lives and continues to infect 14,000 people a day, when he addresses the 15th International AIDS Conference on Wednesday.He is likely to argue there is room for different approaches in fighting AIDS, rejecting accusations that Washington’s AIDS program and its support for sexual abstinence as a pillar of policy is undermining a unified strategy.President Bush’s plan pledges $15 billion — $10 billion of it new money — over five years for care, prevention and treatment in 15 countries, mostly in Africa and the Caribbean, which account for 70 percent of all infections.Critics say Washington’s bilateral effort undermines the U.N.-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is facing a funding shortfall. The U.S. is already the biggest donor to the fund.PROTESTSAnnan told the conference Tuesday the United States should show the same commitment to AIDS it shows in the battle against terrorism. Chirac, in a speech read out on his behalf, said a U.S. drive for bilateral trade deals was undermining an international pact to provide cheap copycat AIDS drugs to the developing world and was “tantamount to blackmail.”The conference — the biggest gathering of scientists, activists, drug company bosses and AIDS sufferers — has seen daily protests against Bush, other G8 leaders and the drug industry for failing to do more to fight the pandemic.The Bush plan has also drawn fire for linking funds to a policy of sexual abstinence over condoms, and requiring that drugs, purchased with U.S. funds for use in developing countries, be approved by the Federal Drug Administration.Tobias, the former chairman and chief executive of U.S. pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, told reporters earlier in the week the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief would buy safe and effective drugs from the cheapest source of supply.Critics, such as British-based charity Oxfam, fear the requirement for FDA approval is a tactic to protect patented drug brands from generic competitors. But Tobias said it was vital that any cheap generics used met the highest possible standards. (Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington) (Source: Reuters Health, July 2004)

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Posted On: 14 July, 2004
Modified On: 4 December, 2013

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